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Elections

Pakistanis protest against 'poll rigging'

The Pakistani election commission says it has received over hundred complaints of rigging and irregularities in the May 11 parliamentary elections. The EU election monitors have also confirmed irregularities in the vote.

Pakistan's May 11 parliamentary elections have been hailed by the national and international observers as landmark and historic, but there have also been complaints of rigging and irregularities in the polls.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party defeated both the former ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and cricket star turned politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the polls, and Sharif looks poised to form the new government in Islamabad.

Though the PPP has conceded defeat without any major complaints, Khan's PTI has accused Sharif and some other parties of rigging the elections.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif waves to his supporters at a party office in Lahore, Pakistan, Saturday, May 11, 2013
(Photo: AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

There have been complaints of rigging in Punjab and other parts of the country

Earlier this week, Michael Gahler, the chief observer of the European Union's elections observation mission (EOM), confirmed "serious problems in polling."

Despite a campaign marred by violence and irregularities, EU observers praised the elections as a "positive step for democracy." Still, they urge the new government to press on with reforms.

Complaints

On Thursday, May 16, the Pakistani election commission said in a statement that it received 110 complaints about voting irregularities. The commission ordered recounting of votes in nine constituencies in various parts of the country. It also set up 14 election tribunals which will look into the complaints. The tribunals are headed by retired judges and will have the authority to declare the results null and void if rigging complaints are proven to be correct.

“The tribunals will be able to address the complaints to an extent only. There will always be people who won't accept their decisions,” Amir Zia of the daily The News in Karachi told DW. Zia said that there were certain irregularities in the polls but the elections were generally quite free and fair.

(Photo: Adnan Bacha/DW)

The EU has praised the Pakistani people for coming out in large numbers to vote

Social media

Khan's supporters do not agree. They have launched a campaign against "rigging" on the social media and have also taken to the streets in big cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. The PTI supporters are posting "evidence" in the form of videos and photographs on Facebook and Twitter to highlight what they call "massive rigging."

The PTI has particularly criticized the Karachi-based liberal Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) for allegedly rigging the elections in several areas of Karachi. The PTI has held several protest rallies against the MQM in Karachi, which has been the MQM stronghold for more than two decades.

Analysts say that the use of social media to report irregularities and express anger against alleged rigging should be seen as a sign of emerging civil society, but it will also be misleading to think that the evolving social media in Pakistan is a mirror to the whole country.

MQM leader Altaf Hussain

The MQM leaders have denied rigging allegations

"It is a positive sign that in the cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, rigging and mismanagement are reported and highlighted on the social media. But we must keep in mind that the social media in Pakistan is not used by most Pakistanis and is limited to the rich and the urban middle-class youth," Jahanzaib Haque of the Express Tribune newspaper's online edition told DW. "Also, the actual number of rigging reports is lesser than the number of people complaining about them. A lot of fake reports and videos are also circulating on Facebook and Twitter," he added.

Poll rigging is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan but this time around the Pakistani society is reacting more proactively to it. Many analysts in Pakistan believe that the perseverance of the Pakistani youth to make their politicians more accountable to the people is commendable and is a proof that democracy in Pakistan is evolving.

DW.DE